I was lucky enough to stumble upon Todd Hayward’s work on Instagram (he’s a must follow!), his square images of tropical destinations looking as if they came straight from a postcard instead of his camera. It’s not an easy feat – taking photos that accurately reflect the tremendous beauty of the Caribbean and Hawaii – but Todd’s got it down to a science. After perusing through his photos and discovering he had a particular fondness for posing beer bottles on the beach and a couple of the best pics of Tortola’s Bomba Shack I had ever seen, I knew I had found a beach bar bum at heart.
Beyond his photography, Todd is a filmmaker which means he doesn’t just take videos, add fancy effects and post them to Vine. He puts a lot of work into the production of his films, even going through the painstaking process of matching them exactly to the music. I’m a huge fan of his work and am amazed his videos don’t have more views on his YouTube channel (his St. Martin one, at the end of this article, is my personal favorite).
After debating the idea for a while, Todd decided to start his Facebook page, Flip Flops and Palms, to give friends, families and complete strangers access to his work while offering helpful travel advice. I couldn’t be more excited to help get the word out so without further ado, meet Todd Hayward and get introduced to Flips Flops and Palms.
How did the idea for Flip Flops and Palms come about?
First, I really want to thank Tom and Beach Bar Bums for their support of my project. As a photographer/filmmaker, you always wonder if anybody else gives a crap about what you create. Sure, your friends and family are going to enjoy your photos and videos, but when complete strangers, such as Tom, connect with your work, and love it, comment on it, share it, and promote it, then you become driven to create more. This spawned the idea for Flip Flops & Palms, which was in essence derived from a combined passion of travelling, photography, and playing neighborhood travel agent. We’ve been heading to the tropics for the last 8 years, so I’ve built up quite the collection of photos and footage. It’s only been a month since I launched the page, and it’s already more work than I ever thought it would be, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. If you’re wondering, the name came from a series of photos I was processing from St. John—a photo of our girl’s flip flops on the beach at Trunk Bay followed by a shot of the twin palm trees at Maho Bay.
Is anyone else behind Flip Flops and Palms or is it just a one man show?
Just me… and a supportive wife who reluctantly allows me to by new camera gear… who doesn’t mind me waking up early to take sunrise shots… who is understanding when I wander away from the group if something catches my eye… who doesn’t get too angry when I do stupid things to try to get the perfect shot. Oh, and two daughters who are often the subject of my photos and videos, patiently waiting while I get the camera settings and lighting to be just right.
What do you want people to “get” from Flip Flops and Palms? What kind of message are you trying to get out to your current and future fans?
It’s really just a way to connect travelers, destinations, businesses, tourism bureaus and everyday fans of the tropics with the tropical eye candy they all crave. We’ve fallen in love with nearly every island we’ve visited, so we enjoy paying it forward to these destinations by posting photos of some of our favorite locations and producing videos for the places that have really touched our lives. We’ve seen some amazing things and met some of incredible people in our travels, and it brings me joy to be able to introduce fans to new places they might not be familiar with… Even if they are familiar, seeing my work may reignite memories of places they, too, have fallen in love with. Some of our fans may even use our photos and videos as vacation planning, tagging their friends or fans and creating a list of must-see destinations. One thing I try to do, especially for photos whose location may not be entirely obvious, is to provide directions on how to reach the location, or even provide the best time of day to visit.
You’ve visited Hawaii and the Caribbean region. Besides the obvious, what’s the biggest difference you see between the two destinations?
The biggest difference would have to be the scale of the two destinations. The islands in Hawaii are much larger than most in the Caribbean. Their volcanic origins are on full display everywhere you look. They have soaring peaks and towering waterfalls, and massive sea cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the sea. Many of the islands have multiple climate zones, with lush rainforests, barren volcanic deserts, and even snow-covered peaks. Traditional Polynesian culture and heritage can be found on every island, and the “aloha” spirit truly is alive and well in Hawaii, as the locals are warm and inviting, going out of their way to make you feel at home. The beaches are gorgeous, the water is spectacular, and the waves can be huge. Travel between the islands isn’t as convenient as the Caribbean, and while the Caribbean can’t quite match the raw, imposing beauty of Hawaii, inter-island travel is where the Caribbean stands out. With hundreds of smaller islands, covered in green, sprinkled with coves of white sand and turquoise waters, Caribbean islands are much closer to one another, often just a short boat ride away. The waters of the Caribbean are more sheltered, allowing for leisurely exploring, hopping from one island to another, soaking in cultures from around the world. It’s quite possible to marvel at Dutch colonial architecture, soak up Afro-Carib culture, devour French Creole cuisine, and take a selfie in a traditional British red telephone box, all in a single weekend! Lastly, it seems as if every island, regardless of its size, will have a few mooring balls, a beach bar, and a few coconut palms, giving this part of the world the laid-back island vibe it’s famous for. Um, does that answer make sense?
What kind of photography and video equipment do you use?
Travelling with kids, I don’t want to be weighed down with too much stuff. My primary camera is a Nikon D5500 with an 18-140mm f3.5 zoom and a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 wide angle zoom. I use this for most of the photos and an occasional static video shot. I also have a GoPro Hero4 for the water shots and a Feiyu-Tech G4 gimbal that provides the GoPro with stability for when I use it on land. Much of the video is shot with the GoPro. I recently got a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced for aerial shots. One common denominator, though, is that I have CPL and ND filters for all of my cameras. You really don’t need anything too fancy to take great shots!
Our favorite beach, well, beaches, are without hesitation, the Trunk Bays (Little Trunk and Valley Trunk) on Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands. The two most important features I look for in a beach are raw, physical beauty and the conspicuous absence of people. These two neighboring beaches knock it out of the park on both fronts. They require some effort to reach, but I seriously have no idea why every time we’ve visited Little Trunk and Valley Trunk Bays, we were the only people there. They have it all: beautiful white sand backed by cacti, sea grapes and coconut palms, sprinkled with giant granite boulders forming hidden nooks and coves, perfect for jumping into the crystal clear turquoise water… and not a soul in sight.
Favorite beach bar?
You’re killing me. I can’t answer this. How about favorite beach barSSS? If you’re looking for a great lunchtime hang-out, Karibuni on Pinel Island in St. Martin is at the top of my list for its view, rum punch, ambiance and incredible food. I would say, based on legend alone, if you’re looking for a “scene”, Soggy Dollar gets a nod from me, as well. Their Painkillers are out of this world. The Beach Bar on St. John is great at night, because you can just pull up a chair on the beach and let your kids play in the calm waters of Cruz Bay… and I can’t believe I just gave a bar recommendation based on its kid-friendliness. I’m sorry your fans had to read that. I should really leave the beach bar recommendations to you.
*Side note – the kid-friendliness was actually a very good aspect to point out, especially since I have two of my own at home. One of the main draws of many of the beach bars featured on the site is their family-friendliness and we wouldn’t have it any other way. No worries, Todd!
Where are you planning on traveling to next?
Well, in a couple of weeks, we’re taking a quick trip to Newport, RI. The girls have never been to New England, and we’ve always wanted to spend more time there after visiting briefly years ago. It’s always a drag when we head north, but hey, summer in New England seems like a good time, right? Our next big trip is a toss-up between Costa Rica and Antigua. Leaning Costa Rica for the rainforest/wildlife experience, but Antigua & Barbuda’s online marketing push is really opening our eyes to a place we had never really considered going. Either way, make sure you “like” Flip Flops & Palms to view some more lush tropical pics and videos!!
All images courtesy of Todd Hayward and cannot be used without his permission.